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[Xmca-l] Re: book of possible interest
Helen has written a remarkable, important book. I gather it's part of her
Ph.D. thesis, but it doesn't really read like a Ph.D. thesis. It reads like
a teacher-trainer (or "professional development consultant", or whatever we
are supposed to call them) with a problem who eventually, with a little
help from the classics of cultural historical psychology and a lot of help
from a co-teacher (who has a somewhat bookish, inert but nevertheless
respectful and open acquaintance with those classics) achieves a very open
but nevertheless very workable solution.
So the bit I quoted represents the problem, or rather, two problems. On the
one hand, Helen is trying to do something new: she wants to bring new CHAT
concepts to bear on extant classroom activities and modify them in ways
that she is confident will work. On the other, Helen is working with some
pretty experienced (and even somewhat brutalized) teachers: they have seen
"Professional Development" fads come and go, collected their free lunches
and go on doing things the old way.
Helen achieves her solution from the bottom up. Eventually, she does find a
teacher who can teacher her a lot and who, even though Helen herself
is uniquely gifted, with not only the theoretical background we all share,
but also considerable first hand experience as a teacher and a parent, can
nevertheless be taught in turn. But as you can see from the extract, she's
extremely open, even to savage, unfair, and somewhat obtuse criticisms.
Mike's critique of "cultural historical" is not that it is an
epistemological error or a typological one, or that it puts the product
"culture" before the process "history". It's not even that it suggests that
on the odd day Piagetian activities might be taking place, which, by the
way, is probably true, since these teachers were mostly trained during the
"reign" of Piaget in the sixties and seventies.
No, Mike's complaint is really, if you will pardon the expression, a wank
of a complaint. He is just complaining that the name is uncool; it doesn't
sound like the popular teachers would like it; the name won't go with an
embossed moose like "Abercrombie and Fitch" or "community of
learners" does. I think we have to accept that responsive, sensitive
teachers inevitably end up internalizing some of the worst aspects of
adolescent thinking, and this is an example. I might even say it's a
bullshit complaint. It's crap, etc. (But this is one of those
language situations where redundancy does not suggest development.)
I guess if I encountered a bullshit complaint like that I would complain a
little about "community of learners". I think that "community of
learners" is essentially a way of saying "socio-psychological": it's
relevant to everyday teaching, but it doesn't tell us much about how the
"socio" got there, whereas "cultural-historical" does. I might even ask if
Mike is going to try to teach physics, chemistry, biology, or history to
kids without some way of saying "physico-chemical" or "chemico-biological",
or "biologico-social". If not, then I don't see anything wrong with
teaching language, including the language of teaching, as something
"socio-semiotic" or "historico-cultural". But then, I never was one of the
My problem is this. I too would like to write a book now. I have two in
mind, and they are both practical books about teacher training,
similar in their targets to Helen's book, which is why I am studying it
carefully. But I find that the books that I have in mind are really "about
something" in a way that Helen's book is not. I don't mean that Helen's
book has no object of study: like the title says, the object of study is
teacher development. What I mean is that the teaching has no clear object
of teaching: it's not specifically about teaching math or literacy or
anything else but about teaching in general. The books I have in mind are
really about teaching literacy (I think I want to try to teach WRITING
before READING) and teaching science (I think I want to try a "hands off"
approach that emphasizes word meanings instead of laboratory experiments).
And I am finding that I when I do this the result is not at all the kind of
"bottom up" thing that Helen does; it's very top down.
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
On 9 July 2014 07:33, Huw Lloyd <email@example.com> wrote:
> Colourful. The complaint seems perfectly valid though: a typological and
> epistemological error all in one conflated term. It suggests that on the
> odd hours of the day there are Piagetian activities taking place. Was this
> part of the point of the chapter?
> On 8 July 2014 21:40, David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> > I'm actually in the middle of Chapter Three right now. What I can tell
> > is that Helen's first two chapters are a kind of "Who's Who" at xmca,
> > Helen reading the great classics (in the wrong order) and talking to
> > Greg, and others on this list. But beyond the litte shout-outs to xmca,
> > Chapter Three, you find interesting problems like this. Helen is setting
> > a "Professional Learning ZPD". This an acronymy within an acronym (an
> > "acro-acronym-nym", like the group I used to belong to in New York and
> > Paris, called "ACT-UP"), and in general Helen seems to have some trouble
> > with names. On pp. 58-59, she writes.
> > "In PLZ 4 I wrote the title 'Features of cultural Historical Learning
> > Activities' across a piece of butcher's paper and asked the grou to
> > brainstorm features of activities that would be consistent with cultural
> > historical theory. After a few suggestions, Mike suddenly interrupted
> > MIKE: Can I ask, Helen, why such a wank of a name?
> > HELEN: Cultural-historical?
> > MIKE: Yeah, what a bullshit name.
> > DEB: What should it be Mike?
> > MIKE: What does it mean to anyone? Is that relevant to anyone that
> > name? Cultural-historical learning. What does that mean?
> > HELEN: Well....
> > MIKE: It's crap.
> > HELEN: Well, I don't think that you, that's the name of teh theoyr,
> > Cultural historical theory, but I think in terms of schools using teh
> > theory they talk about Communities of Learners.
> > MIKE: Yeah, but why don't they call it that?
> > HELEN: OK, so (I start crossing out "cultural historical" and changing it
> > to "Communities of Learners")
> > MIKE: That name is like calliing the ultra net site for teachers 'design
> > space'. It has no relevance to the name whatsoever, and to use
> > of cultural historical learning--sounds like a load of crap. It
> > doesn't have any relevance ot what it means. If you said to me cultural
> > historical learning, I go ....
> > BETH: I actually thought it meant talking about he past (general
> > agreement).
> > MIKE: That's what it implies, the past and how you used to teach.
> > HELEN: I suppose I'm just trying to familiarize you with the term
> > agreement)
> > MIKE: If you call it community of learners then it's something that's
> > relevant."
> > Helen then makes the (cultural-historical) point that words have a
> > but they are not necessarily YOUR history--for Helen, "cultural
> > calls up a whole series of quite precise concepts, while "Community of
> > Learners" is kind of vague and undefined. But for the teachers (who are,
> > must say, not exactly reticent about sharing, and do not limit themselves
> > to sharing their expertise) what you get is old times.
> > It's funny that they ignore the word culture. I always thought that
> > "cultural historical" is a little bit of the cart before the horse....
> > David Kellogg
> > Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> > On 8 July 2014 21:40, Peter Smagorinsky <email@example.com> wrote:
> > > The Practice of Teachers' Professional Development
> > >
> > > A Cultural-Historical Approach
> > >
> > > Helen Grimmett (Monash University, Australia)
> > >
> > > This book uses Vygotsky's cultural-historical theory to provide a
> > > theorisation of teachers' professional development as a practice. A
> > > practice can be described as the socially structured actions set up to
> > > produce a product or service aimed at meeting a collective human need.
> > > this case, collaborative, interventionist work with teachers in ...
> > > here for a free preview and full description<
> > >
> > > >.
> > >
> > >